About Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon is a performing musician, music educator, audio engineer and founder of the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, a group dedicated to the performance and recording of electro-acoustic music. Their 2010 debut recording, "The Salt Lake Electric Ensemble Perform Terry Riley’s In C," received praise from critics throughout North America and Europe. He holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in music technology from IUPUI in Indianapolis. He can be reached at mdixon@reichelartsreview.com. Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.


UTAH CHAMBER ARTISTS, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Dec. 8

Musicians often work toward adapting their performances to sound best in a particular concert hall. Concert halls are often varied in their unique acoustic signatures, and it can be a challenge to find the ideal sound in some halls. As a former music student at the University of Utah, this author has become well acquainted with the unique and challenging acoustic characteristics of Libby Gardner Concert Hall, which was the venue for Monday evening’s Utah Chamber Artists concert, conducted by artistic director Barlow Bradford. The ensemble, with its arsenal of 20 strings, 14 winds, four percussion and harp, managed to find a really beautiful and inspiring sound that seemed to harness the especially reverberant acoustics of the hall in a way that promoted resonance and energy. It was often beautiful and inspiring.

The opening five-movement work of the concert, Welcome All Wonders, found the Utah Chamber Artists revisiting a work they had commissioned more than 20 years ago. Penned by Utah-born composer J.A.C. Redford, the work brimmed with complex harmony and rhythm. The combined orchestral and vocal elements were harnessed to create a lush yet articulate texture. Redford has done all kinds of work in film and theater, including composition and orchestration projects with some of the most celebrated film musicians in the world. In this composition, Redford stepped away from film music conventions to compose a large scale concert work based on five sacred texts from a variety of authors, all celebrating the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. The music was intellectual and contemporary, while also drawing strong influence from the western classical music tradition. Congratulations to the musicians for giving such a spirited and glowing performance of this challenging score.

The concert’s final half featured shorter works by Bob Chilcott, arrangements of traditional holiday music by David Willcox and Bradford, and an audience sing along. Chilcott’s choral work Lullay, Lulla, Thou Little Tiny Child was simple, lush and hypnotically beautiful. Bradford’s new arrangement of Sing We Now of Christmas closed the concert, and the ensemble really stepped up by playing with energy and precision, a satisfying conclusion to an impressive concert filled with holiday spirit.


UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, April 18; second performance 8 p.m. April 19, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org  

The Utah Symphony’s mastery of the classical style as of late has been quite impressive. It sounds incredibly focused with defined, meticulous movement, expertly wielded dynamics, and long stretches of impeccable, if not inspiring, intonation. Friday night, Haydn’s opening to The Creation, titled The Representation of Chaos sounded clean, intense, and restrained. The performance benefited from particularly strong opening and closing sections.

Scottish percussionist Colin Currie made a reappearance with the symphony, taking on works by Elliott Carter and collaborating with principal keyboardist Jason Hardink. Currie’s previous appearance with the symphony left the Abravanel Hall audience divided in its response to Christopher Rouse’s piece Alberich Saved, with a sizable portion of the audience sounding rather discontented at the conclusion of the performance. This time, with the Carter, things were different.

Carter’s music is outstanding. Using an atonal setting, Carter’s style is unique and unmistakably polished and individual. The texture is always carefully crafted and often economical in its density. Currie’s solo marimba technique was practically flawless during Figment V, which made use of the entire range of the magnificent instrument. In Two Controversies and a Conversation, Currie and Hardink conversed using musical fragments of varying lengths and levels of complexity. The orchestra handled its accompaniment with the necessary reservation, and the musical phrases emerged from the stage with refinement and craft.

Perhaps Carter’s music is more accessible than Rouse’s, or perhaps the audience has begun to better appreciate more diverse means of musical expression after being regularly exposed to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries during Thierry Fischer’s tenure. At any rate, it was good to see that the audience was delighted by Carter, Currie, Hardink and Fischer’s orchestra.

Mahler’s epic Fifth Symphony concluded the program. The music was often brooding and intense, with an incredible dynamic range. In spite of the challenges the score presented, including a 70 minute length and several technically difficult passages, the orchestra performed with the usual high level of professionalism and attention to detail that has been characteristic of the Fischer baton.